GBBO Technical Bake: Paul Hollywood’s Chocolate Babka

When watching last week’s GBBO and it came to the technical I was intrigued to know what a Babka was. I’m sure that the contestants have had to make a Babka before in a previous series but I couldn’t remember what they were.

A babka, according to the description on Wikipedia is “a sweet braided bread or cake which originated in the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine.” It is also popular over in the USA, especially around New York. They are traditionally filled with cinnamon as well as other non traditional fillings such as cheesecake, apple and Nutella!  Paul Hollywood’s recipe is published in the new GBBO book “Love To Bake” and his recipe is very much based on a chocolate and hazelnut filling, which is basically Nutella!

I’ve been trying to join in with a few of the GBBO bakes where I can at the moment and as I have had time off work having to self isolate, I was keen to bake the Babka. I’m not that confident with anything involving yeast so I wasn’t expecting great results!

Last Saturday morning I planned to get up early to make the dough so we could have the Babka for breakfast.  This didn’t happen. I’d been up very late the night before trying to work on a crochet blanket I was making for my daughter and I ended up sleeping in! The babka dough needed two hours proving time as well. Oh never mind, it ended up being a four o clock treat instead!

To make the filling at first I had to roast the hazelnuts for 5 minutes on a baking tray and then chop them up. I left them while I made up the dough.

Paul Hollywood’s recipe says to use a free standing mixer with a dough hook.  I have a Kitchen Aid but for some reason I couldn’t find the dough hook and I gave up looking in the end. So by hand it had to be then.  I just forgot about my hands getting sticky and used my dough scraper to scrape it off the worktop. After about 10 minutes kneading it was time to roll the dough out into a large rectangle.  I spread  melted chocolate on top of the dough, followed by sprinkles of the chopped hazelnuts.

Now for the fun bit! I rolled the dough up into a long Swiss Roll like sausage and put the seam underneath me on the worktop.  I trimmed each end of the spiral then cut the dough lengthways into two long pieces. I then stuck the two pieces together at the top and then braided the loaf to make a two stranded plait. This was then secured at the end and put into a greased and lined loaf tin.

There the loaf tin was left to prove in my utility room (which was warm from having the dryer on) but was covered with a teatowel for nearly 2 hours.

The babka was baked in the oven for 45 mins. The first 15 mins was at the higher temperature of 170c then the temperature was turned down for the remaining time to 150oC.  While the babka was baking, I made a sugar syrup which was then poured over the babka when it came out of the oven.

The babka was meant to be left to cool but we were so keen to try it that we ate some straightaway! Oh my, it was good and they say they are best eaten on the day they are made.

Happy Baking
Love Sam xx

Ham, Cheese, Tomato and Pesto Parcels

It’s now my second week back in work after lockdown.  My working days have changed and it has made me have to be really organised.  Before lockdown I worked on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but for now I am in work on a Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

On a working day I finish at 6pm on two days and don’t get in from home until 6.45pm. The last thing I want to do is to think about cooking dinner.  On a work night it’s usually something I’ve prepared earlier or something easy to put together which Mr S or my daughter can make. The other day before the pandemic started was my college night where I used to go straight from work to  my patisserie course. On that night I would eat a sandwich for my tea in the car before going into college.

I love  The Batch Lady  (aka Suzanne Mulholland) I bought her book back in March and  used it loads of times.  My family have really enjoyed everything I’ve made out of her book and always ask me to  make her Farmer’s Wife Plait (basically a giant sausage roll) on a regular basis. I think The Batch Lady book has revolutionised my meal planning, especially as I love to cook but do not like to be spending ages doing it when I’m tired.

On Sunday afternoon just after I had popped our roast beef into the oven for our dinner that night, I started to prep Monday night’s dinner as well.  I had some ready rolled puff pastry in the fridge so I looked in The Batch Lady  book to see which recipes she had which used puff pastry.  Apart from the aforementioned Farmer’s Wife Plait, there was a recipe for Chicken, Cheese and Ham Lattices.  I only had chicken in the freezer and I hadn’t got a lattice cutter.  But I thought I’d adapt the recipe to suit what I had in the fridge.

I found some mature cheddar, some ham, tomatoes and half a jar of pesto sauce in the fridge which needed using up.  I thought they would make a delicious combination for a savoury lattice parcel. I could prep them up and put them on the baking tray ready in the fridge. All  Mr S or my daughter needed to do was to pop them in the oven and to stick some veg on to go with it on the Monday night.

I unrolled the puff pastry sheet and cut it into four quarters.  Then, I spread some pesto sauce on the bottom of the pastry but not quite to the edges. I then put a piece of ham, a piece of cheddar and two slices of tomato on one side of the parcel. Although the cheddar was a delicious one I’d bought off the deli counter in my local Morrisons, it was dead crumbly and made a right mess!

Once the filling had been put in, I then folded the parcel over and crimped the edges with a fork. I also made three diagonal slits in the top of the pastry.  Finally, I brushed it all over with some beaten egg. They looked very rustic but I was going for taste, not looks here!

On Monday I had had a really busy day and was exhausted.  I was so glad I had prepared the parcels the night before. As I literally crawled in through the door on my knees, Mr S had made some mashed potato and cooked some peas and sweetcorn to go with the parcels.  I was so grateful for this.

Both Mr S and my daughter said they really enjoyed the parcels.  There were four of them and we ate the fourth one between us. I had wanted to take it for my lunch on Tuesday but there it was lying all alone on the plate looking at us after we had finished our dinner. I have been told I have to make this again, which I’m definitely up for doing.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t got a photo, well that’s down to me forgetting to take one before we finished eating it! Oops!

Stay Safe!

Love Sam xx

 

 

 

Tarte Tatin with Creme Anglaise

Last Thursday was the first session in the next part of my Patisserie and Confectionery Course at York College. It was a change of night and we had a new tutor. For my first session I ended up arriving five minutes late as there had been a massive traffic jam driving to York. I had to drive the back way and avoid the Ring Road! Still didn’t make a difference as everyone else had the same idea as me!

We made Tarte Tatin and Creme Anglaise in our first session. I love Tarte Tatin though I’ve never made it before. It’s because I thought you needed a heavy duty frying pan which can also go in the oven. But our tutor said that you didn’t have to use a frying pan but could use an ordinary saucepan and an ovenproof pie dish.

Tarte Tatin is a popular French dessert which was accidentally created at a hotel in Loire et Cher, France back in the 1880s. The hotel was run by two sisters called Stephanie and Caroline Tatin. The hotel was called Hotel Tatin as well. There are different stories regarding how the tarte came about. But the one that sticks in people’s minds is the one that Stephanie started to make a traditional apple pie. She left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. She smelled burning and tried to saave the dish by putting a pastry lid on top of the pan. She then baked it in the oven and turned it out upside down when it was finished. The hotel guests liked the dessert, much to her surprise. The sisters made it their signature dish after that. I have seen versions of Tarte Tatin with different fruits, such as bananas or pears but the apple is a delicious classic.

First, we set to work peeling, coring and chopping apples for our tartes. We had to cut the apples finely but not too fine that they would disintegrate. They were then put into a bowl of cold water and lemon juice so that the apple pieces didn’t turn brown.

The next step was to make the caramel for the apples. This was more fiddly than it looked and I had to throw mine out twice and start again. First we started in the ovenproof frying pans but this seemed to make everyone’s caramel grainy! Finally for the third time I used a saucepan and it worked. We learned that once the butter had melted into the sugar we were not to stir the mixture at all. We could swirl the mixture around in the pan and wait for it to change into the light brown caramel colour. As soon as it was ready, I immersed the pan in a bowl of cold water, then quickly transferred the caramel to the bottom of the ovenproof frying pan before it set! By this time I was struggling as the hotplates/ rings of the cookers in the college kitchens do give off a lot of heat and that did not do my menopausal hot flushes any good! The rest of my body was cold but my face felt like it was in a furnace!

Once the caramel was in the bottom of the pan, we had to arrange the apple pieces on top of the caramel. I chose to put mine in circles fanning round the edges and overlapping.

As we don’t have a lot of time to make puff pastry from scratch in our sessions, we used some ready made puff pastry. We cut out a circle of puff pastry no thicker than a pound coin to put on the top of our caramelised apples. The pastry had to completely cover the apples and we had to use a knife to make some slits in the pastry so that air could escape out.

After putting our tartes in the oven and setting the timers for 30 minutes, we started on our creme anglaise. I’ve never made creme anglaise before and presumed it was a French version of custard. We could flavour ours with vanilla or cinnamon which would complement the apples in the tarte tatin perfectly. I chose vanilla though.

Once again, the creme anglaise was tricky. We had to put some whole milk on to simmer in a pan while beating egg yolks and caster sugar together using a whisk. It took a while to get them pale and creamy. So that the eggs didn’t cook and scramble, we added a little milk to the mixture then put the whole mixture into the saucepan to gently heat until thickened. Unfortunately, my first attempt at the creme anglaise scrambled as some had stuck to the bottom of the pan. I had to start again from scratch. But thankfully it worked the second time around!

Meanwhile the Tarte Tatins had finished baking and were out of the oven cooling down. Then it was time to take them out of the pans. We had to use a plate to flip it upside down. I was impressed with mine because the caramel juice was oozing through and it just looked so tempting!

Once the Creme Anglaise was ready to pour, we were given a plastic tub to take it home in as well as a foil pie dish for our tartes. I was very happy with what I’d created even though I had found it awkward to make in places.

It was too late to try some that night but Mr SmartCookieSam was impressed. It gives me a huge sense of achievement and accomplishment when I get to try making things like this. I come home all happy and excited as Mr S is sat down watching TV usually at that time. I’m always telling him to come and see what I’ve made. He was saying he would eat some for breakfast!

He didn’t though and he ate a piece when he got in from work. I’m doing WeightWatchers at the moment but I wanted to have a taste. I cut myself a small slice and had a tablespoonful of creme anglaise with it. It was such a small piece, it was gone in two bites! At the time of writing there is still half of it left. More for Mr S tomorrow as our daughter is vegan so can’t eat it!

I’m excited to know what we’re baking next week at college.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Flamiche (Roquefort and Leek Pie)

December was a funny old month for me and it seemed to take ages to get to Christmas. All that build up and then bang, it’s here! The first week of December was fine, then I went down with the flu which wiped me out for two weeks. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I felt more like my old self in the week before Christmas, thankfully. I have been so grateful to Mr SmartCookieSam and to my two children (both grown up) who have held the fort. The mister is a great help to me on a work day as I don’t get home until nearly 7pm. I either eat some tea at work on my break or I eat something he has made. Cooking for my family is something I really enjoy but I don’t like being home late.

On the Sunday before Christmas, though it was a real tonic to actually be able to make something comforting for dinner.

I had some leeks which needed using up and some ready made puff pastry so I thought about a savoury tart. I looked in my recipe books for ideas and came across a recipe for a Flamiche which is a type of French puff pastry pie. I thought it reminded me of a pithivier, which to me is very similar. The filling contained leeks and blue cheese. I had some Roquefort, which did smell very strong like smelly socks but would be ideal for the pie!

To make the filling for the flamiche, I first sauteed the chopped leeks in butter and a little olive oil. I also added in a splash of white wine and vegetable stock. When the leeks had softened a little I then crumbled in the Roquefort.

The flamiche was made in my loose springform cake tin. This usually only gets used for cheesecakes so it was strange making something savoury in it! I rolled out the puff pastry first with enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tin. I tipped the mixture into the dish and then topped the pie with another circle for the lid. I then crimped the sides over the top and gave it an egg wash. The flamiche baked for about half an hour until it was golden and crisp.

It was served with some broccoli and a small portion of mashed potato (for Mr SmartCookieSam). The rest ended up being ideal to be served cold the next day with some salad. My kids weren’t too keen on it because of the blue cheese and leeks but it went down well with the adults.

I think I will definitely make this again on a winter weekend.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Italian Galette

Last weekend I was at home alone. Mr SmartCookieSam was out at a motor racing event, my eldest is at uni and my youngest was at work. When I’m at home on my own usually I can’t be bothered to cook for myself. But I thought I’d better make the effort in case Mr SmartCookieSam was hungry when he got in from his day out.

I’d planned to try out the Italian Galette recipe from Mary Berry’s new book Quick Cooking but hadn’t got round to it. The book had arrived just after I had had my foot procedure and I went though the book planning out what I’d love to cook.

The recipe is according to the introduction notes: “A quick and easy way to make a savoury tart. Using shop bought pastry is a joy…” I can definitely go along with that. I can’t be doing with faffing about making puff pastry. I find it too fiddly and complicated. Short crust pastry, well that’s another matter!

First job was to preheat the oven and line one of my baking trays ready to put the galette on. I chose to keep the pre-rolled oblong shape instead of re-rolling and turning it into a circular shape.

The puff pastry cracked as I got it out of the packet but I didn’t worry too much. It would be covered up with the filling.

I scored the edges with a knife so I had a border to brush beaten egg on. Inside this border I then spooned sundried tomato paste. I totally forgot to buy some goats cheese to go on the galette so I had to use up some remaining grated cheese instead.

The next ingredient to go on top of the galette were some cherry tomatoes. I chose some vine ripened ones. I also added some pitted green olives. This was then ready to go into the oven for about 15 minutes at 200oC in my fan oven. After this, I then scrunched up some slices of Parma ham, returning the galette back to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Mr SmartCookieSam had had a large lunch so didn’t want much for dinner when he got in. We did end up eating the galette a little like a pizza in slices which wasn’t the most healthy way to eat it! But it tasted absolutely delicious, so much like summer on a plate.

Have a good night.

Love Sam xx

Puff Pastry Pesto Pizza Slices

Tonight’s offering chez SmartCookieSam was meant to be a filo pastry topped chicken pie. Only the chicken I’d got out of the freezer was still frozen solid in the middle. That’s tomorrow night sorted, then. I had to think of something else instead.

It had to be a quick trip down to the local petrol station which has a Co-op attached to it. I had a sheet of ready made puff pastry in the fridge so I bought pesto sauce, a ball of mozzarella and some cherry tomatoes. I never make puff pastry as it’s so time consuming.

The pastry sheet was ready rolled and in a perfect rectangle for me to bake some pesto pizza bites. In Eat Well For Less there is a recipe for some mini puff pastry pizza bites using two sheets of pastry. There are two types of topping in the recipe, the other being one using prosciutto. I definitely didn’t have any prosciutto in, so I just stuck to the pesto topping suggested.

Instead of cutting the pastry sheet into 36 squares, I used a pizza cutter to make 12 slices. This would be better to go with some wedges, salad or veg to make a complete meal.

When I had cut the pastry into 12 pieces, I spooned some pesto sauce on top of it. I used two tablespoonfuls for the whole base but eked it out and made sure the pesto was spread evenly. Cherry tomato quarters were put on each piece, along with little chunks of mozzarella.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any more photos as my phone ran out of charge. I was very impressed with how quickly the puff pastry pesto pizzas cooked. They were baked for about 20 minutes at 200oC but half way through the cooking time I turned the baking tray around so that it baked more evenly.

I made salt and pepper wedges and cooked peas and sweet corn to accompany them and everything disappeared quickly, along with the remains of the coleslaw from Monday night.

I will definitely make this recipe again as it is so versatile. Two different toppings and could be adapted to be buffet style canapés or bigger pieces for a main meal.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Beef and Beer Pie.

Friday 15th December 2017.

In the run up to Christmas my head was all over the place and I was so disorganised.  I was trying to be organised but it just didn’t happen.  I planned to cook a steak and ale pie for Mr SmartCookieSam,  our son and I but I completely forgot to switch on the slow cooker.  And I was feeling pretty smug as I put the meat into the slow cooker thinking here goes, we’ll have a delicious pie filling!  No way! I wondered why I’d got to 5pm and realised the cooker was stone cold and the meat inside was raw! It serves me right.  So we ended up with a takeaway that night and the beef filling went in the fridge overnight.

Instead of putting the filling into a casserole dish and cooking it in the oven I usually find my slow cooker does it for me when I’m out leaving the meat deliciously tender.  This I did on Saturday morning, keeping the meat on the low setting throughout the day as I was going around doing all my chores.  I put browned braising steak, a chopped onion, bacon lardons, some ale, some beef stock, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, rosemary, button mushrooms and a bay leaf into the slow cooker and left it to do all the work.

Just before the pie was ready to go into the oven I transferred the meat to a pie dish and then made a shortcrust pastry lid for our meat pie.  The recipe in The Great British Bake Off Christmas book also has a shortcrust pastry lid but uses beef suet in the ingredients.  I hadn’t got any so I had to make my pastry with all butter and plain flour.  It didn’t change the taste or the effect though.  I decorated the top of the pie with leftover cut out pastry stars and then brushed the pie top with some beaten egg. It was baked in the oven for about 45 minutes until the top was golden and the filling was piping hot.

On Saturday we became a family of four again as my daughter came back from uni for the Chrismas holidays. We had a perfect first night back dinner as she loves steak and ale pie. I served it with some mashed potato, carrots and cabbage, along with a jug of extra gravy.  It was so delicious there were clean plates all round!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Luxury Fish Pie.

SundayDecember10th2017.

I was never really keen on fish until I met my husband. As a child I had several experiences with badly cooked fish. This was mainly from my Nana Margaret, my Dad’s mum who was a hopeless cook. I remember the time I threw up when we were on holiday in Scarborough as she stunk the holiday flat out with her kippers. Another time she bought some haddock from the local fishmonger and it was so overcooked, it would have made a great wash leather. Every time fish was on the menu I’d refuse to eat it.

Not only that, but I have a terrible fish phobia. For years and years I couldn’t bear to even go near the fish counter in a supermarket. I know the fish are dead and they’re hardly likely to jump up at me but they freak me out. I don’t know where the fear comes from but I do remember two things from my childhood. My Dad used to keep fish and he had a tank with two massive ugly fish called Oscars in them. They looked really grumpy and were large and grey. I must have been about seven or eight when we had them and one night I had a dream that they jumped out of the fish tank, grew wings and chased me around the house. Their tank used to be in our front porch and I remember looking down at the floor so I couldn’t see them. Another incident happened when we were on holiday in Scarborough. My Dad, brother and cousin went fishing and caught several tiny plaice. They were still flopping about when Dad brought them back and he put them in the bath! My brother joked that he was going to put them in my bed and every time he went near me, he’d pretend he had the fish and was going to stick it down my neck. This fear of fish still lives with me to this day! If we go swimming in the sea on holiday my kids tease me and say “Ooh look mum, there’s a fish!” I can eat certain types of fish now, thanks to Mr SmartCookieSam being great at cooking it and he’s got me eating salmon, scallops, prawns and some white fish. I still felt physically sick though when he ate a portion of whitebait right in front of me in Italy a few years ago. The batter was so thin you could see their eyes through it. But, having said that, if I am cooking fish it can’t look like a fish to me! It has to be ready filleted with no skin on and certainly no head and tail with its eyes looking up at me!

I chose to test out another recipe from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book, this time being an Indulgent Fish Pie. This is a recipe suggestion in the New Year’s Eve chapter of the book. I remember Mary Berry once cooking a fish pie on one of her programmes and saying she always has fish pie on Christmas Eve. We don’t in our house, in fact fish pie is our traditional meal on Good Friday. Normally on New Years Eve we have a Chinese takeaway if we’re at home. On Sunday, I thought a comforting fish pie was just what we needed. I’d bought some fish the day before in our local Morrisons, although I thought the choice available was a little bit poor. I ended up buying pre-packed and there weren’t any raw prawns on the shelf. My phobia came to the fore when I also realised I would have to take the skin off the salmon to cut it up into chunks! I was really freaking out, I couldn’t even bear to look at the skin, let alone touch it! In the end I turned the fillets over so I couldn’t see the skin and cut the salmon into chunks and then the skin off the bottom. Straightaway I scooped the skin up with some kitchen roll so I couldn’t see it and threw it into the bin.

After all that drama, it was easy to make. I boiled some potatoes and mashed them. I didn’t use double cream in the mash, only a tiny bit of butter. I also made a simple parsley sauce as well as hard boiling some eggs. When these were cooled, I shelled and quartered them, mixing them in with the salmon chunks, some cod chunks and some prawns. I poured over the parsley sauce and then finally topped this with the mashed potato. The recipe uses watercress as an ingredient, which I love. Salmon and watercress sauce is gorgeous but this time I’d forgotten to get some.

The fish pie then went into the oven to bake. I didn’t want to over cook the fish or it would end up like my Nana Margaret’s wash leather haddock. I don’t pre-cook the fish anyway and as the recipe introduction says “all the flavour is released into the pie,”

I’m glad to say my husband had seconds. I didn’t, but I did have a substantial portion.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart.

Thursday 7th December 2017.

I love making pies, quiches and tarts but I always worry about the fat and calorie content in the pastry and the fillings.  But nothing beats a homemade pie or tart, especially on a cold Winter’s evening.

I had planned out the meals to cook for this last week but forgot I was a day behind with what needed eating up first in the fridge.  I had some chicken breasts which needed to be used so they ended up being cooked for Thursday night’s dinner.  Being a supply teacher and at the time having no work booked in for the day after, I thought I’d prep ahead just in case I ended up working.  We’d all be starving by the time I got in from work. Not only that but the last thing I’d want to do is to start cooking something from scratch.  I’m glad I was prepared.  I ended up working and didn’t get home until 6.15pm.

The Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book ended up being our dinner along with some new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  It was assembled and cooked the night before and it was reheated carefully the following night.

So, back to Thursday tea time and I’m cooking two meals one after the other.  I started off with the tart and then went on to cooking the chicken breasts in a chipotle marinade with new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  Yes I know we had that two nights running but it was what I was trying to use up in the fridge before doing my weekly shop at the weekend.  I began with making up the shortcrust pastry which was fine.  It was chilled in the fridge for half an hour as I was cooking three medium onions in some olive oil and butter. The long, slow and low heat of cooking the onions really helps them to caramelise.

When the pastry was chilled for long enough, I got it out of the fridge and rolled it out to fit it into my tart tin.  There was enough pastry to overhang the edges. I filled the pastry case with baking parchment and my ceramic baking beans so I could blind bake it.  After 12 minutes I had to remove the paper and the beans then pop the pastry case back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

As the pastry case was baking, I mixed together the filling.  I mixed together two eggs and another egg yolk, along with some double cream, some grated Parmesan Cheese and some crumbled Stilton.  I was also meant to add pine nuts to the mixture but when I looked in the cupboard I’m sure I couldn’t find any.  So I left them out altogether.  I’m sure walnuts would have gone well in the tart as well.

When the pastry case came out of the oven, I mixed the filling, along with the caramelised onions together. The mixture was poured into the case and I popped the tart back into the oven.  I always put the tart case onto a flat baking tray in case it leaked out all over the oven floor.

The following day, when we chose to eat the tart, I asked Mr SmartCookieSam to put it back in the oven to reheat through for half an hour.  The result was absolutely delicious.  I’m sure it was hugely calorific, what with all the cheese and cream in the filling not to mention the butter in the pastry as well.  But it simply melted in the mouth.  What’s more is that as the tart was so big there was enough left over to eat cold the next day for lunch. It was a big hit and a recipe I’ll definitely be making again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx